When the Kennedy family moved into the White House, they brought with them a Welsh terrier named Charlie.
Despite his allergies to animal hair, President John F. Kennedy enjoyed animals and wanted his children to have the experience of having pets.
During her husband’s campaign for president, Jackie Kennedy gave her husband Charlie as a gift, and she later referred to the terrier as “Jack’s dog.”
Despite the later addition of quite a few other dogs to the family, JFK really bonded with their first dog, Charlie, who would often swim laps in the pool with the president. Charlie was known to be protective of his human, growling when any other dog came near him.
According to longtime White House dog handler Traphes Bryant, President Kennedy enjoyed having his dogs greet him when he disembarked from Air Force One.
“JFK got a kick out of being welcomed back to the White House by a dog,” Bryant said. “He was never too tired to pet the dog I would have there as he came off the ramp.”
The Problem With Sticks
Charlie had one habit that the president wasn’t very fond of: He loved nothing more than to fetch a ball or a stick. “He got so he’d always bring a stick up and drop it at your feet,” said Bryant. “If you were sitting down, he’d drop the stick on your lap.”
President Kennedy told Bryant it was “kind of aggravating” — because that’s all Charlie wanted to do.
And so, Bryant recalled, Kennedy directed him to stop throwing sticks to the dogs so that the problem wouldn’t get any worse.
Sneaking Off to Walk the Dogs
Many nights, the First Couple would take one or two of their dogs for a walk outside the White House gates, unbeknownst to people on the street.
“Mrs. Kennedy would start calling for [one of their other dogs] Clipper, and the president would clap his hands for Charlie,” said Bryant. “They would take them out of the White House grounds…. It wouldn’t be long till the Secret Service car would be behind them … at a safe distance.”
“Mostly the public didn’t recognize them in the dark,” said Bryant, who added, “This was their exercise period.”
He said sometimes President Kennedy and his wife “looked like two young college kids taking the dogs for a walk. They looked so happy.”